Rick Atkinson

Lawrence Rush "Rick" Atkinson IV (born November 16, 1952) is an American author, most recently of The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, the first volume in the Revolution Trilogy. He has won Pulitzer Prizes in history and journalism.

Rick Atkinson
at 2015 National Book Festival
Lawrence Rush Atkinson IV

(1952-11-16) November 16, 1952
ResidenceWashington, D.C.
Alma mater
  • Journalist, editor
  • historian, author
AgentRaphael Sagalyn
Spouse(s)Jane Ann Chestnut (dentist), May 12, 1979
ChildrenRush, Sarah
WebsiteThe Revolution Trilogy The Liberation Trilogy,

After working as a newspaper reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, Atkinson turned to writing military history. His seven books include narrative accounts of five different American wars.

His Liberation Trilogy, a history of the American role in the liberation of Europe in World War II, concluded with the publication of The Guns at Last Light in May 2013. In 2010, he received the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing.

Life and career

Atkinson was born in Munich to Margaret (née Howe) and Larry Atkinson, who was a U.S. Army officer. He grew up on military posts around the world, including stints in Salzburg, Georgia, Idaho, Pennsylvania, California, Hawaii, Kansas, and Virginia. Turning down an appointment to West Point,[2] he instead attended East Carolina University on a full scholarship, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1974. He received a master of arts degree in English language and literature from the University of Chicago in 1975.

While visiting his parents for Christmas at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1975, Atkinson found a job as a newspaper reporter for The Morning Sun in Pittsburg, Kansas, covering crime, local government, and other topics in southeast Kansas, an area known as “the Little Balkans” for its ethnic diversity and fractious politics. In April 1977, he joined the staff of The Kansas City Times, working nights in suburban Johnson County, Kansas, before moving to the city desk and eventually serving as a national reporter; in 1981, he joined the newspaper's bureau in Washington, D.C. He won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1982[1] for a "body of work" that included a series about the West Point class of 1966, which lost more men in Vietnam than any other Military Academy class. He also contributed to the newspaper's coverage of the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse in Kansas City, Missouri, for which the paper's staff in 1982 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for local spot news reporting.

In November 1983, Atkinson was hired as a reporter on the national staff of the Washington Post. He subsequently wrote about defense issues, the 1984 presidential electionhe covered Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman vice-presidential candidate for a major party—and various national topics. In 1985, he became deputy national editor, overseeing coverage of defense, diplomacy, and intelligence. In 1988, he returned to reporting on the Post's investigative staff, writing about topics as varied as public housing in the District of Columbia and the secret history of Project Senior C.J., which became the B-2 stealth bomber. In 1991, he was the newspaper's lead writer during the Persian Gulf War. Two years later he joined the foreign staff as bureau chief in Berlin, covering not only Germany and NATO, but also spending considerable time in Somalia and Bosnia. He returned from Europe in 1996 to become assistant managing editor for investigations; in that role, he headed a seven-member team that for more than a year scrutinized shootings by the District of Columbia police department, resulting in “Deadly Force,” a series for which the Post was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Atkinson left the newspaper world in 1999 to write about World War II, a consuming interest that began with his birth in Germany and was rekindled during his three-year tour in Berlin. Subsequently he twice rejoined the Post for reporting forays, first in 2003, when for two months he accompanied General David Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq, and again in 2007, when he made trips to Iraq and Afghanistan while writing “Left of Boom,” an investigative series about the proliferation of roadside bombs in modern warfare, which won the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He held the Omar N. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at the United States Army War College and Dickinson College in 2004–2005, and remains an adjunct faculty member at the war college.

Atkinson is a presidential counselor at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, a member of the Society of American Historians, and an inductee in the Academy of Achievement, for which he also serves as a board member. He serves on the governing commission of the National Portrait Gallery.


Atkinson's first book, written while on leave from the Post, was The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966. A 1989 review in Time magazine called it "brilliant history",[3] and Business Week reviewer Dave Griffiths called it "the best book out of Vietnam to date".[1] Author James Salter, reviewing the book for The Washington Post Book World, wrote, "Enormously rich in detail and written with a novelist's brilliance, the pages literally hurry before one." In 1993, Atkinson wrote Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. In a review, The Wall Street Journal wrote, "No one could have been better prepared to write a book on Desert Storm, and Atkinson's Crusade does full justice to the opportunity." [4]

Publication of The Liberation Trilogy began in 2002 with An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942–1943, acclaimed by The Wall Street Journal as "the best World War II battle narrative since Cornelius Ryan’s classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far." While with the 101st Airborne Division south of Baghdad in April 2003, Atkinson learned that the book had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history. The trilogy's second volume, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944, published in 2007, drew praise from The New York Times as "a triumph of narrative history, elegantly written...and rooted in the sight and sounds of battle." Volume three, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945, was published by Henry Holt and Co. in May 2013, and was ranked #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction[5] and Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction[6][7] bestseller lists. A review in The New York Times called the book "a tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity...Atkinson is a master of what might be called 'pointillism history,' assembling the small dots of pure color into a vivid, tumbling narrative...The Liberation Trilogy is a monument achievement.""The Price of Victory". The New York Times. Retrieved March 20, 2019.</ref>

As a result of his time with Gen. Petraeus and the 101st Airborne, Atkinson also wrote In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat, which The New York Times Book Review called "intimate, vivid, and well-informed", and which Newsweek cited as one of the ten best books of 2004. Atkinson was the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by the National Geographic Society in 2007. He is the editor and introductory essayist for Cornelius Ryan, an anthology of work by the journalist and military historian published by Library of America in May 2019.

In 2013, Atkinson began researching the Revolution Trilogy, with the first volume, The British Are Coming, published in May 2019 by Henry Holt and edited, as all of Atkinson's books have been, by John Sterling.[6] The first book in the "The Revolution Trilogy", The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 was released in 2019. The New York Times selected The British Are Coming for its "100 Notable Books of 2019." [8]



Notes and references

  1. "Rick Atkinson". Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. 2010. Retrieved November 30, 2013 via Fairfax County Public Library. Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000003606. Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  2. Buckley, Tom (October 22, 1989). "ANYONE FOR WAR?". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  3. Kanfer, Stefan (October 30, 1989). "Books: Point Blank". TIME. Retrieved November 30, 2013. (subscription required)
  4. "Crusade".
  5. "Best Sellers - The New York Times". The New York Times. June 2, 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  6. Schuessler, Jennifer (May 23, 2013). "Rick Atkinson to Write Trilogy about the American Revolution". Arts Beat: The Culture at Large (blog). New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  7. "Best Sellers - The New York Times". The New York Times. June 2, 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  8. "100 Notable Books of 2019". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
  9. "Livingston Award for Young Journalists past winners". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  10. "George Polk Awards past winners". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  11. "John Hancock Awards for Excellence in Business Writing". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  12. "POST MAGAZINE ARTICLE WINS TOP GUILD PRIZE". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  13. "The 1999 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  14. "2003 Distinguished Book Awards:". Society for Military History. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  15. "Journalism Award Prizes". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  16. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  17. "Past Fellows". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  18. "Medal of Honor Convention Comes To Chicago: Singular Moment of Courage, a Lifetime of Honor". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  19. "Pritzker Literary Award". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  20. "The William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  21. "The New York Military Affairs Symposium". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  22. "Samuel Eliot Morison Prize previous winners". Society for Military History. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  23. "2014 Awards for Books Published in 2013". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  24. "Award Winners". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  25. "The Long Gray Line".
  26. "The Long Gray Line".
  27. "An Army at Dawn".
  28. "In the Company of Soldiers".
  29. "The Day of Battle".
  30. "Where Valor Rests".
  31. "The Guns at Last Light".
  32. "D-Day".
  33. "Battle of the Bulge [The Young Readers Adaptation]".
  34. "The British Are Coming | Rick Atkinson | Macmillan". US Macmillan.
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